40: Hurricane Hummers

40: Hurricane Hummers

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings

Hurricane Hummers

Birds sing after a storm; why shouldn’t people feel as free to delight in whatever remains to them?
~Rose F. Kennedy

Although many people envy the residents of sunny Florida, with our almost constant, summertime weather, the fall of 2004 brought nothing but sympathy from our northern friends and relatives.

During a period of two months, the east coast of Florida was hit by three major hurricanes!

But in the midst of boarding and un-boarding windows and living without electricity and hot water for weeks at a time, a tiny miracle arrived in our yard which seemed to make everything else bearable.

When we woke up on the morning of September 5th, after Hurricane Frances had hit our coast with winds of up to seventy-five miles per hour, my husband and I stood on the porch on the sheltered side of our home and watched the still-powerful winds topple and break huge, ancient, mighty oaks.

Suddenly, in the midst of these destructive winds, we spotted a flash of color in our garden. No more than ten feet from where we stood, a ruby-throated hummingbird emerged and hovered in front of our native firebush plant, jockeying back and forth with the gusts of wind to get nectar from the swaying plant. Unbelievably, this bird came back time and again to drink from this plant.

After years of trying to lure them, this was the first time we had ever seen a hummingbird in our yard—or in Florida!

Because of their scarcity, the sight of a hummingbird in Brevard County, Florida, is almost a miracle in itself. But to see the determination of this tiny three-inch bird, which weighs about a tenth of an ounce, in the face of a storm that put fear into the hearts of millions of Florida residents, was truly remarkable.

The next morning, most of the firebush plant was gone, victim of the winds that continued to batter our state for hours. But much to our pleasure and surprise, our new hummingbird visitor was still there, dining on the plants that remained.

Although we didn’t have power and the boarded windows blocked out the light, my first action of the day was to dig out an old, previously un-visited hummingbird feeder, and boil up some hummingbird nectar on our propane stove.

The next day, when the stores opened again and most practical people were standing in line buying batteries and bottled water, I was at a local department store with an armload of new hummingbird feeders, which I quickly filled and hung outside. That was enough to get the hummingbirds to move right in!

I had lived in Florida for thirty-seven years and had never seen a hummingbird, one of my favorite forms of wildlife, in our state. Although I had been trying to plant all the right plants to attract them, it took a hurricane for me to finally lure them to my yard and to really observe them up close.

Almost every day since the hurricanes, I have had the joy of observing the visiting hummingbirds. With a feeder right outside my office window, I get a daily bird’s eye view. I have watched as they chase each other through the yard and I have had them fly right between my arms as I refilled their feeders. And I have become very familiar with their buzzing and chittering sounds that let me know they are always around, even when I can’t see them.

They remained through the next, more powerful hurricane (Hurricane Jeanne), and have stayed every since.

The hurricane season of 2004 affected everyone in Florida, some more than others. They affected me in a very positive way.

Every time I see the hummingbirds, I am reminded of the many blessings that nature holds for us: messages of beauty, strength, and determination. But perhaps the greatest message is that wonders are out there waiting to pay us a visit. We just need to keep planting seeds of beauty and faith, and we need to keep an eye out for the miracles!

~Betsy S. Franz

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